Have you ever considered how important your role, as the patient, is within a doctor’s appointment? Your ability to play your role well influences how effectively your GP is able to play theirs – and the key is preparation.
Here are 8 ways to get more out of your next doctors visit:
Before your next appointment: Take a few minutes to sit down with a piece of paper and answer the following questions. Don’t forget to take your answers along to your consultation.
1. What is the main purpose for the appointment?
This might sound like an obvious question, but there are many reasons to book a doctor’s appointment. Having a clear understanding of your ‘why’ beforehand will allow you to get the most out of your appointment.
If you have more than one ‘why’, be sure to write them down in order of priority so the doctor can deal with your main concern first. Also, be aware that your doctor may ask you to come back for a second consultation if they cannot effectively assist you with all your concerns in the time that is available.
Tip: Chronic appointments are incredibly important from a medical point of view and ideally require a separate consultation to allow for effective management.
2. What medical information do I need to tell the doctor?
Gather and write down all medical information that you feel is relevant to your ‘why’. Be as comprehensive as possible – this information will inform your doctor's diagnosis and advice.
Be sure to include:
- A detailed medical history for yourself and your immediate blood relatives. This is especially important for 1st-time patients but can be beneficial for all patients – as you may remember something of relevance that you did not mention initially.
- A list of your current medications - including dosage and frequency. Ensure to include prescription medication; over-the-counter medication; natural and herbal remedies; and all supplements.
- Any other information that you feel is important.
3. What are my current and/or recent symptoms?
Write down a list of all the symptoms you are currently experiencing. Try to be as detailed as possible and be sure to include secondary symptoms – even if you don’t feel that they are necessarily related.
Ask the following questions for each symptom:
- When did I first notice this symptom begin?
- How often does it occur?
- How long does it last for?
- What seems to trigger the symptom?
- What seems to alleviate the symptom?
- If you are experiencing pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, how severe is the pain?
4. Are there any specific questions I would like to ask the doctor?
If there is any specific information that you are wanting from the doctor, be sure to write down your questions before your appointment.
During the appointment, ensure that you share your answers with the doctor – this will help them understand your needs and will assist them in their examination and diagnosis. But that’s not where your role ends:
5. Write down the things of importance.
There is nothing worse than getting home and realising that can’t remember what the doctor told you. Use a notepad or your phone to jot down what the doctor is saying so that you can review it at a later stage.
6. At the end of the consultation, ask your doctor to recap what they have said.
Don’t be scared to ask your doctor to recap or a summarise what they have said. By asking them to repeat their instructions you are ensuring that you are both on the same page. Be sure to write down any information that you might have missed the first time
After the appointment
7. Follow through on your doctor’s advice.
It is really important to follow through with any advice or instructions that you received from the doctor during your visit. This could include taking medicine, preparing for a test, or scheduling an appointment with a specialist. If you do not follow through with their instruction for any reason – especially in regard to medication – it is important to let them know.
8. Keep in contact.
Doctors want to know how their patients are doing beyond the confines of consultation. While they are very busy – and unfortunately won’t have the time to speak to each individual patient – they do appreciate receiving updates and feedback. The best way to keep in contact with your doctor is through the practice staff. Give them a call or send them an email and they will ensure that the doctor is kept up to date with your progress.